In 1994, a New Jersey Department of Education investigative report found evidence that shows "the longer children remain in Newark Public Schools, the less likely they are to succeed academically.”
Much has changed since then.
With the return of local control and the school district besting statewide averages in both reading and math, Newark Public Schools has plenty to celebrate.
But the school district is not resting on its laurels. Instead, NPS is using its positive results to continue to improve on the momentum and progress the district has realized in recent years.
Newark Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf presented final 2016-2017 PARCC scores at Tuesday’s meeting of the board of education, which revealed that the percentage of NPS students meeting or exceeding expectations across all grade levels has significantly increased.
“It’s a very proud day for Newark,” Cerf said at the meeting. “We’re here to talk tonight about how the kids of Newark are progressing. This board and this community are starting to show a real unity of purpose around our collective purpose.”
With PARCC results on the upswing, dramatic gains in proficiency and increased participation, the district is hoping to continue to build on these successes.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track for college and career success, and the latest results out of the district bode well for NPS students.
Test results show that NPS proficiency rates have gone up significantly over the last five years. Furthermore, citywide growth of Newark students dramatically outpaces similar districts.
When compared to the 37 most demographically similar districts in the state, Newark has gone from the 42nd percentile to the 83rd in math, and from the 44th percentile to the 81st in English.
Strong gains have also narrowed the opportunity gap between African-American students and the statewide average by about 25 percent in ELA and 20 percent in math in just two years.
Since 2015, NPS has seen greater gains in grades 3-11 in both English/language arts (ELA) and math than statewide gains for the same time period, with an 8.7 percent improvement in ELA and a 5.3 percent increase in Math.
Gains were especially pronounced in grades 3-8, indicating that the district is setting a solid academic foundation for students.
Scores increased further when looking at citywide results that include all public school models in Newark. These results, which include all of Newark’s students, show considerable progress toward narrowing the gap between the city and the rest of the state.
With citywide gains of 12 points over the past two years in ELA and seven points in math, elementary schools across Newark have narrowed the statewide gap by five points and three points in each area respectively.
Results also show that NPS compares favorably to other urban districts such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Albuquerque, particularly when it comes to low-income students. Newark outperformed more than 80 percent of similar urban districts in New Jersey, with citywide results showing all Newark students outperforming several other PARCC statewide averages.
Data shows that 40 out of 56 NPS schools have improved in ELA, while 43 out of 56 have made gains in Math.
Precise three-year cohort data—groups of the same students measured over time—reveals that third-grade students who stayed with NPS showed consistent growth in both ELA and math.
In addition, PARCC participation has increased, with 94 percent of students taking the tests in 2016-2017, compared to just 77 percent in 2014-2015.
The district is now using these results to push the district forward.
On August 3, PARCC data was presented to all NPS principals, who are now sharing this information with educators to help them improve their practice classroom by classroom.
Board Chair Marquis-Aquil Lewis noted Sept. 13—the day the state board of education returned local control to Newark Public Schools—as an historic day for the city, and thanked all past and present board members.
“This work was not easy,” Lewis said. “And even though many want to take credit for it, this was not the work of one single person—it was a joint effort. I want to say to these board members, thank you. Thank you for your advocacy.”
Lewis also asked parents to participate in the process as the district transitions to autonomy.
“I invite all of you to sit at the table and to break bread with us,” he said. “We will never look back. Yes, we have local control back, but we must keep it.”
Cerf expressed excitement at what the future holds for the district, noting the the unity and continuous efforts that has propelled the district forward..
“I am so thrilled to report there is indeed unity of purpose,” Cerf said.